Moving Archival Targets: “Radical Empathy” and Research in (and outside) of the Archives: A Talk by Linda Morra

Linda Morra, a white woman with dark brown hair wears a bright pink jacket and sits at a desk with microphone and a stack of three books


The AMP Lab and Cultural Studies program welcome Dr. Linda Morra (Farley Distinguished Visiting Scholar, SFU) to UBCO! Linda will be giving a talk in the lab on April 1st, 11:15am. In-person registration here.


Moving Archival Targets: “Radical Empathy” and Research in (and outside) of the Archives

Practice in feminist archival research has increasingly called for the careful delineation of one’s critical and affective posture in relation to archival materials and for attention to the implications, ethical and otherwise, for this posture. Theoretical and scholarly discussions have thus also turned on demarcating or characterizing the nature of such practices, and demanded an orientation that is ethical (see Cvetovich, Biber and Luker, Cifor and Gilland, as examples). Such discussions have identified some of the key issues and cultivated a rubrics by which feminist scholars might navigate the field. This paper examines the premise that conducting feminist archival research is viewed “in the contemporary moment as inseparable from an act of ethical care,” while being implicated in “emotionally-charged processes” that “act upon [its] subjects and enact fields of knowledge” (Moving Archives). It raises questions about why archival research has not only been charged by this call for greater attention to the ethical and affective underpinnings of one’s research, but also come to be seen as almost inextricably linked with it. While this presentation will identify the relative importance of such underpinnings, it will challenge notions of “radical empathy,” highlight the potential risks in calling for this kind of practice, redefine what affect means in archival study, and conclude with two examples of how affect may be deployed in archival practice.

Linda Morra is the current Farley Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Simon Fraser University (2021-2022) and a former Craig Dobbin Chair of Canadian Studies (2016-2017). Her edited volume, Moving Archives (2020), won the Gabrielle Roy Prize in English in 2020, and her book, Unarrested Archives (2014), was nominated for the Gabrielle Roy in 2015.